I like the way Tom Zakes says it at the beginning of every forum at the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club, “The day after the filing deadline, I pulled the list of candidates from the city website. All candidates in contested races were sent an email inviting them to speak at our club. If they did not have an email address, they were sent a letter. If they did not have an address, they were called on the telephone. We did not have to go to anyone’s house this year. All candidates have the opportunity to speak at our club, and they miss it at their peril. There will be a make-up date on October 31 as well, and all candidates who indicated that they could not be there for the date selected for their race were invited to speak then as well.” The admonition is quite clear: it is the candidate’s decision to attend or not.
The District A Candidates were the subject of Thursday’s forum. Former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig, handily defeated by Helena Brown in the 2011 election, was a no show. During that campaign, Stardig told the Downtown Pachyderm crowd that the pornography-at-work incident involving George Greanias was simply an “indiscretion.” Helena swiftly responded that “George has got to go” and he is now gone.
In 2009, Stardig directed her campaign to the Republican groups around town. Stephen Costello followed this same campaign strategy. Both Stardig and Costello quickly became Annise Parker’s lapdog and worked against Republican values. Costello championed the rain tax and Stardig made the motion at council to create the rain tax. Meanwhile, the Harris County Republican Executive Committee resoundingly voted against the rain tax. After unequivocally losing the 2011 election to Helena, Stardig returns – with the mayor’s political consultant from San Francisco.
With Stardig failing to appear, the Downtown Pachyderm audience was left with the remaining challengers to Councilwoman Helena Brown: Ron Hale, Mike Knox, and Amy Peck. Hale and Knox are involved the security business. Peck is the field director for a local politician.
Tom Zakes asked a series of questions to the participants.
Do you support outsourcing crime lab operations to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences?
- Amy Peck-Supports the crime labs working together
- Mike Knox-Yes
- Helena Brown-Yes
- Ron Hale-Yes
This was my question and I have written about the crime lab extensively on this blog. I am glad that the candidates seemed well-versed and know that the city’s crime lab is a disaster. There is a turf battle going on and Annise Parker has sold her soul to the devil for the police endorsement. It is sad and all crime victims in the City of Houston suffer because of HPD’s turf battle.
How would you fight the human trafficking issue?
- Amy Peck-Worked on state legislation on the issue
- Mike Knox-Wants to end the sanctuary status to curb the problem
- Helena Brown-Real serious issue demanding more resources and attention
- Ron Hale-Wants to create a database to help identify traffickers and victims
This issue has garnered a lot of attention as of late. Just this week, there was a large arrest capturing several human traffickers. I like Hale’s idea; but, I believe that it is already being done by local law enforcement. I must give a hat tip to Precinct Four Constable Ron Hickman who has done a great job monitoring and raiding sex trade establishments. Hickman’s goal is to run human traffickers out of his precinct.
Would you support a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance?
- Amy Peck-Will vote no
- Mike Knox-Will vote no
- Helena Brown-If Parker is elected this will pass, she will vote no
- Ron Hale-Will vote no
This legislation has spread across Texas and Mayor Parker has not brought it up for a vote prior to the election, which is smart on her part. The legislation has a large implication for City of Houston employers. Annise would also rile up the ministers who oppose her lifestyle. During her 2009 campaign, Parker promised not to legislate or govern based on her sexuality. This has been true, for the most part, creating frustration with her gay voting base.
Do you support the use of security cameras?
- Amy Peck-Does not support cameras
- Mike Knox-Supports cameras for law enforcement and high risk areas
- Helena Brown-Does not support the use of cameras
- Ron Hale-Not in favor of cameras
Tom Zakes did a good job of clarifying that we were speaking of the government’s use of cameras. This issue is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the Downtown Pachyderm because of the Kubosh family’s battle over the red light cameras. I am sure that the answers were tempered or adjusted with that in mind.
Do you support limited-purpose annexations?
- Amy Peck- Supports, if land or property owner is the sponsor
- Mike Knox-Does not support
- Helena Brown-Supports, if land or property owner is the sponsor
- Ron Hale-Does not support
Limited purpose annexations are extortion by the City of Houston. In this type of annexation, the City will propose a one cent sales tax, which is split with the local municipal utility district (MUD). In return, the City of Houston agrees not to annex the area for 30 years, which protects the MUD fiefdom. The losers are the area local governments who are cut out and, of course, the taxpayers and businesses that are forced to raise costs to provide the money.
What would you do with the dome?
- Amy Peck-Thought there were other more interesting proposals than the one we are voting on
- Mike Knox-Tear it down
- Helena Brown-Will wait and see where District A voters are on the issue after election
- Ron Hale-Supports keeping the dome but does not support the bond issue
I must say that, for years, I worked at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I wore out more than one pair of Lucchese boots walking around the dome. Whenever I had to do this, I imagined lots of additional parking for Reliant Park events. I do not support going into debt repairing the largest mold factory in Southeast Texas. I am skeptical of anyone being able to maintain the dome through revenue and we will be bailing out these folks for years to come with tax dollars. I know my preservationist friends have a different thought – sorry, Ramona and Carolyn.
How would you lead as a conservative?
- Amy Peck-Stated she has been working for years as a conservative
- Mike Knox-Would distinguish between local and national politics
- Helena Brown-Will continue leading through fiscal responsibility
- Ron Hale-Make sure the money goes to the proper place and not overextend services
This was a softball question for Helena because she has led as a conservative on City Council. While there are several councilmembers who profess to be conservative, they rarely lead on conservative positions. Helena has led the fight over city spending and will, no doubt, continue to do so. I am not sure if her contenders even understand the city financial problem.
Do you support the repeal of the feeding ordinance?
- Amy Peck-Change mayor, allow for council members to add agenda items
- Mike Knox-Do away with the feeding ordinance
- Helena Brown-Get rid of the mayor and you do away with the ordinance
- Ron Hale-Homeless need to eat and would support removing the ordinance
Once again, our local heroes, Michael, Paul, and Randy Kubosh, led the charge to repeal the feeding ordinance. The Kubosh family gathered petitions to amend the City Charter to repeal the ordinance. The Mayor passed this ordinance in response to complaints from local downtown business owners. Amy and Helena are right in saying that this issue disappears if the Mayor is not reelected.
Jessica Colon is the consultant for Mike Knox. As you may remember, she was the consultant who worked to pass the rain tax and worked for the red light camera company. Knox has an interesting history as a Houston Police Officer. When I first heard that Knox left the Houston Police Department after 17 years, alarm bells went off because why would someone with that many years in leave without a full pension? The answer was obvious after reading his police personnel file. I had never heard of a 185 page file before and, after asking around, I learned that it was very unusual.
Mike Knox dropped out of high school and college; but, the worst part of the file discusses his trouble returning property, like narcotics and weapons, to the police property room. The file is stunning and I will just link it here so folks can make up their own minds. When you see Norma Jeter and Valoree Swanson out promoting this candidate, please remember that Norma works for the Knox’s consultant. This activity is irritating and it gives the Republican Party a bad name.
We elect horrible candidates to office because of this type of activity. Norma Brady Jeter and Valoree Swanson are clueless when it comes to background checks or character assessment. Rumor and gossip is their trade and I do not think that you could ever have an in depth conversation with either person on the crime lab or the pension issue. Both women just promote who they are told to and it is a real disservice to those trying to provide good information. I have written about this problem in the past with Judge Brad Hart.
All of the Norma and Valoree candidates/officeholders follow the same pattern. It is generally someone who has never before been involved in the Republican Party or conservative causes. The candidate hires Jessica Colon (previously Mary Jane Smith) and then gets promoted by these people. The majority of the other consultants work the same way with a different cast of characters. Unfortunately, this is exactly why our local party is in a terrible position.
Those involved in the Harris County Republican Party know that Helena has long been a champion of conservative causes. The District A race is important because of Helena and her stance against reckless city spending, which has made her a target of the mayor. When Helena served as a precinct chair, at every Republican Executive Committee meeting, she was well-versed on the relevant issues.
Some folks may wonder why Helena has drawn four opponents. Two of her opponents have consultants who are close to the mayor. It is clear that the mayor wants Helena gone. As a councilmember, Helena has consistently pointed out that the city is in deep financial trouble. Now that Ben Hall is shedding light on the city’s financial deficit, more people seem to recognize and acknowledge the problem. Mark Twain wrote, “In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” Helena has been that patriot on council and sounded the alarm when others refused to do so. Most Houston voters should see these reasons to vote for Helena.
After publication, the Knox campaign provided clarification on his academic record separate from that in his HPD personnel file. The documents they provided show that Mr. Knox passed his GED exam after leaving Westbury High School at the age of 17 and entered the Air Force. During his career at the Houston Police Department, Mr. Knox pursued and received an AA from Houston Community College and a BA from the University of Houston-Downtown. The campaign also provided a copy of an Exit Form from Mr. Knox’s last supervisor at HPD which states that he was eligible for rehire at the time of the exit interview. The documents are presented below.